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Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Deranged Wall Calendar, 28 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: The Gift of Zen Wall 2013 (Calendar)
I use electronic calendars so had no use for a printed calendar but around March I had a load of appointments and reminders to juggle and was about to design and print out a paper calendar to stick on my wall when I had a blinding flash and suddenly remembered that in the olden days you could buy such things ready made. It being March, I thought, hey, have a look online, you might pick up a 2013 calendar going cheap... Cheaper and quicker than home-made?! That got my attention so I had a look.

Being a Christian-converted-to-Buddhism with a lot of Jewish and Muslim friends I wanted a calendar that showed all religious festivals for the major faiths plus significant dates in the UK secular calendar like when the tax year begins, Bank Holidays etc. Frankly, I could not find one so decided to get a Buddhist-themed calendar and add significant dates by hand. My quick and easy calendar was looking less quick and easy.

Checking the Buddhist calendars on offer, I found most of them ridiculously over-priced, with no reduction despite this being almost April. I found this 'Zen' calendar on offer at much reduced price, with postage the total was about £6.00 which I thought fair. Price is right, what about the product? Amazon offered only tiny thumbnail images of the front and back page of the calendar so I just shrugged. Amazon gave the dimensions as 30cm or 1' square so I thought there should be room for my notes and stickers. I decided to give it a go and clicked accordingly.

The calendar arrived very quickly, well-packaged and undamaged. The shrink-wrap on the calendar was a nightmare to remove without marking the underlying pages but I managed. A tiny pin hole is provided for hanging the calendar which is too small for practical purposes - I improvised by making a hanging loop from the cord I use to make mala rosaries.

The calendar is printed on off-white paper with a matte, dull finish so it is easier to read in bright sunlight. I recognise the logic but it looks a bit drab in UK wintery daylight. The photographic images are large (30 cm / 1' square) and colourful. The subjects are pretty, anodyne, a series of the clichés - raked gravel, pebbles, bamboo - which is how Zen Buddhism is marketed and consumed in the West plus some generic 'filler' images of exotic flowers which are more South East Asia than Japanese in flavour. I guess they were used because they were vaguely 'oriental'. The images are used at random, e.g. images of autumn leaves in February and July, which is a bit odd when you are in the UK but maybe okay if you are in New Zealand? Whether random by design or oversight, who knows? Maybe this is the downside of making calendars for a world market?

A series of short quotes in an ugly font are over-printed on each image but this does not overly spoil the pictures. Some of the quotes are difficult to read: white script on light-coloured background. The quotes are also rather random and a bit puzzling: most of the images evoke Japanese Zen, the front cover has a quote from Shunryu Suzuki (Japanese Zen practitioner who helped introduce Zen to California, USA, his legacy sadly distorted by the Richard Baker scandal...), the calendar is called "The Gift of Zen" calendar, but inside every quote is from Lao Tzu, who is a Chinese Taoist not a Zen (or even Chan) Buddhist!? Again, I have to ask, is this a koan-like playfulness to evoke satori or just plain sloppiness?

The calendar shows a month per view on a 30cm / 1' square spread, all English language countries (UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) public holidays are listed except those of Eire. Why? All the major (Anglican and Roman Catholic) Christian festivals are listed. No Buddhist festivals from Zen or any other Buddhist tradition nor lunar dates are listed. Again I ask, why the oversight?

Given all the deficiencies of this calendar, why do I give it four stars? Well, a harsh verdict on this calendar would that it was flung together on a computer by someone who knew nothing about Buddhism and could not be arsed to find out. Someone only wanting to fling together a generic product at the lowest possible cost and flog it to a global market for the greatest possible profit: a few generic 'oriental' stock photos, a few lifted off the internet 'oriental' quotes, a calendar from a freeware template... But, being ignorant, this greedy person shot his or herself in the foot - calling the product 'Zen' and quoting the most famous Taoist master; using the name of Shunryu Suzuki and thus evoking memories of sex and money scandals, the blight of Western Buddhism; aiming at a global market and missing out Eire; offering only Christian festival dates on a 'Buddhist' calendar. Was there ever a clearer demonstration of the self-destructiveness of the secular mind? Even when driven by greed, it frustrates its own ambitions because it is so crass, ignorant, blind. This calendar is a modest little example of the general shallowness of Western materialism. It hangs on my wall as a constant reminder of the nature of samsara and how urgent it is to free all beings from its delusions. This silly little mess of a calendar could evoke my contempt but it evokes my compassion and promotes prayer for the liberation of all beings. On a less solemn note, often, just when I happen to glance its way, it makes me smile or even laugh out loud.

Verdict: I recommend this calendar only if you are aware of its flaws, feel compassion for them, and agree to pray for the release of all beings from the crass secularism it represents. You probably also need to share my quirky sense of humour to appreciate this monstrosity.
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